Laundromat Dreams

I made my first trip to the local laundromat today.

I haven’t been in a laundromat since my oldest daughter was a baby – 26 years ago to be exact.
Back then I was washing bibs and diapers. Now it’s just me, and I’ve temporarily grown out of diapers. Now bibs, that’s a different story.

I’ve avoided the laundromat as long as I could. I’ve been imposing on friends and family for months now-showing up surreptitiously for a friendly visit, carting a basketful of dirty clothes with me. “Um, is it okay if I just throw a few things into your washer? I brought my own detergent.”

But today I was desperate. I’m having to wear clothes highly inappropriate to the season and not quite matching in my usual “Garanimal” fashion-my bathing suit top, a Notre Dame sweatshirt, my ex-husband’s boxer shorts I’ve been using to dust furniture, a pair of pajama pants, and sandals. It’s 96 degrees out. I’m a bit uncomfortable.

And frankly, it takes too many paper towels to dry off after a shower. So, unavoidably, I’m here.

It’s not so bad really-rows of Speed Queens (those are washers, not homosexual race fans), some monstrous front-loaders too intimidating to contemplate using (there’s no instructions on them and heaven forbid I should look like an idiot).

Speaking of looks, even though I’m dressed like an Irish bag lady, I put on makeup and did my hair for this excursion. Go figure. I’m hauling out my “dirty laundry” for all humankind to see, including what my daughter calls my “tidy whities”-an eclectic mix of Victoria’s Secret and Fruit of the Loom-my paper-thin, threadbare washcloths I insist on using because they exfoliate your skin much better than big, fluffy ones (at my age exfoliation is a must), and my 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets bought back when I could afford such things.

All my secrets are here, bared to the world. Yet I wouldn’t consider showing up with my bare face hanging out. Elizabeth Arden would be spinning in her grave. (If you’re not dead, Lizzy, sorry about that last remark.)

But my mother raised me right.

There’s a line in “Steel Magnolias” where Dolly Parton’s character, Truvy, says to Olympia Dukakis’ character, Clairee, while watching a particularly hippy woman who is obviously not wearing a girdle dance at a wedding, “My thighs haven’t left the house without Lycra since I was 16.” To which Clairee replies, “That’s because you were raised right.”

And who knows whom I might run in to? The man of my dreams perhaps? A talent scout from Vogue looking for the next “face” (though mine would be the face of the over-40 crowd)? Okay, maybe that’s pushing things a bit.

Anyway, back to the laundry.

This is actually more efficient than doing laundry at home. If you arrive at the right time of the day, you can use as many washers as you need. Thirty minutes later, you can dry everything in one fell swoop.

Of course, trying to fold and hang everything before it wrinkles is a bit of a challenge. But if you’re really good, your timing is right, you’ve sorted properly, and you’re in reasonably good shape, you can be done hanging your permanent press shirts before the jeans are done drying, and get the jeans on hangers before the towels need to be fluffed and folded, then just toss the sheets on top of your unmentionables hidden in the bottom of the basket.

Unless you’re like me-a Martha Stewart wannabe (well, except for that insider trading problem) – and insist on folding the sheets just so: fitted sheet pocket-to-pocket, nicely creased so it lays flat; flat sheet folded exactly twice down the middle so it’s easier to center on the bed; pillow cases in half lengthwise twice, then down three times to form a perfect rectangle; towels in half edge-to-edge, then turned sideways and folded three times so they look nice on the linen closet shelf. Those of us who are obsessive-compulsive about folding laundry need to take along extra quarters. But what’s 20 bucks to do laundry as long as it looks good? Image is everything, even at the laundromat.

And who knows, Mr. Right may show up. Or at least Mr. Clean. He’s hot in that Yul Brynner sort of bald-guy way, has enough
muscle on him, and owns his own business.

And he probably knows how to do his own laundry.

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